Three years ago I started self-publishing my backlist. I eventually got everything put up this year. I have noticed a significant change in self-publishing, especially this year. There was a time when you could write the best book you could, have it edited, get an amazing cover, and be pretty sure it would sell decently. Not HUGE numbers, but sustainable numbers. Numbers that would allow most writers to make a living.
Time for a harsh truth: Those days are over.
Now you have to do all the above and hope that you don’t slip down even further. Someone on one of the many lists I belong to was talking about market saturation and predicting even bigger changes to the publishing industry because of it. I believe them. I no longer recognize most of the names I see on the bestseller lists. In fact, I’ve never heard of 85% of them. I don’t want the meaning of those lists to be lost, but I’m afraid that’s exactly what’s going to happen if things continue the way they’re going.
I heard reps from Amazon and Kobo speaking recently and they hinted that big changes were coming. One even hinted at some type of quality control being put into place. I admit that I had mixed feelings about that, since who knows who will be in charge of deciding what’s good or not. The one thing all these changes have driven home to me is that I can’t continue to do what I’ve always done. No matter how hard I work to make my books better (i.e. studying craft, hiring good editors, cover artists, formatters, etc.), my efforts won’t be enough on their own. That is a REALLY difficult thing for me to say and an even harder thing for me to accept. But accept it I must. I’ve come up with a few things I plan to implement on the marketing front, but even those won’t be enough to make a huge dent in a saturated market. (And I don’t mean that in a ‘oh woe is me’ way.) I’m simply stating a fact.
So what does that mean for me and writers like me?
For me, it means changing focus significantly. As much as I enjoy writing romance, I’m never going to be a top-selling romance author. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. (I needed to hear it again.;) I wish that weren’t the case, since that’s been my dream from age fourteen on, but it’s true. My ‘voice’ and the way I approach storytelling is better suited for other genres. Genres I might have a chance of breaking out in. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing more romances. I still have a few books I want to write. What it does mean is that they will no longer be my main focus or a priority. They can’t be, if I want to continue to make a living. I will have to push them to the back burner and work on building my other pen names. Pen names that don’t focus entirely on romance. Let the games begin.
It’s a brave new publishing world out there. The only thing certain is change.